One of Phase 5’s strengths is most definitely its people. And as the company continues to grow, we are extremely proud of the variety of backgrounds and talents our employees have to offer, as well as the breadth of work experiences and specialized knowledge they bring to the table. “Smarter together” is more than a tagline; it’s something we believe in and bring to life everyday as we work with our clients and our colleagues to generate and apply insights to strategic decision making.
Rachel Abugov has been with Phase 5 since 2018, beginning as a UX Research Analyst, working her way up to Senior Consultant, and more recently taking on the role of Account Manager within the Business Development team. In addition to her professional experience, Rachel comes to Phase 5 with both undergraduate and graduate degrees in sociology from Queen’s University, where she specialized in understanding the impact of technology on consumer culture as both continue to evolve in society. We had a chance to sit down with Rachel to learn more about her studies, her experience, her career path and her thoughts on how technology & humans can continue to co-exist in a way that makes lives better. Below are some excerpts from our conversation.
Q: Your specialization during university sounds fascinating! Can you tell us a little about sociology as a discipline, and how your education led you to a career in research and insights?
A: Sociology is defined as the study of human social relationships, including human interaction with one another as well as with external forces. A big part of my studies focused on technology and consumer culture, such as the impact of tech on society, how that is changing day to day, and how it’s different in different parts of the world.
I’ve always had an interest in human interaction, particularly as it relates to consumer goods and/or technology. What motivates people to change their behaviour and embrace new technology, and then what are the downstream effects of making that change, both at a macro and at a micro level? For example, my thesis explored the use of mobile money technology in Kenya, and how that has impacted communities. I was able to demonstrate how the adoption of these tools was directly related to positive changes in female empowerment and access to opportunity.
As a student of sociology, I was able to dive deep into various aspects of human behaviour, but I was also able to hone my expertise in research methodology. I studied alternative research methods (such as focus groups, online communities, quantitative surveys, etc.), tested each, and developed an understanding of which methods worked best for a particular question or problem. So the research industry was a natural progression for me. At Phase 5, I’ve been able to apply all of these methods on a regular basis, and have gained further expertise at how to combine the different methods to achieve optimal results for our clients.
Q: That depth of understanding and passion for the marriage of technology and humans sounds like it has made you a great asset for the UX team at Phase 5. Tell us more about some of the specific applications of your expertise to client projects.
A: The way humans use technology is very applicable to Experience Design and User Experience. During my tenure at Phase 5, many of our clients have needed to develop or re-imagine their mobile apps. Frequently, I need to analyse how customers leverage technology; i.e. what “job” they are trying to do and/or would like to be able to do more easily. In these cases I have often applied qualitative techniques such as focus groups to make meaningful insights that will shape decisions about UX design.
Other times, my work is more focused on revealing and articulating the pain points a user has with the current experience. Phase 5 is particularly good at bringing together the right mix of quantitative and qualitative techniques to define a client’s specific challenges / opportunities, and then assess importance and urgency from the customer perspective. These studies can save companies money by identifying where to prioritize development dollars, and sometimes the right small change can have a big impact, providing our clients with a competitive advantage in their sector.
Q: In your current position, you’re helping clients and prospective clients understand how best to leverage research and analytics to cost-effectively meet their strategic goals and become more customer-centric. You’re able to learn about their business challenges (or opportunities), and then help them determine what approach will be most effective at getting the insights they need. Talk to us about your transition into this role, and what you like most about it.
A: Transitioning into my current position has been pretty seamless given my past experience. I’m a huge advocate of the benefits of research on customer-centricity, and over the last 5 years I have seen first-hand the positive impact that well-done research can have on an organization’s systems, products, and goals. From a personal perspective, my favourite part of the business has always been bringing the findings to life by communicating insights to clients and revealing the strategic options behind the data. I really enjoy the client-facing part of my job, presenting and discussing options, and developing strategy based on our findings.
Another big part of my job is collaborating across Phase 5’s different experts and different practice areas (e.g. UX, CX, Innovation, Insights) in order to best serve our clients. It’s a great opportunity for me to leverage my experience working directly with our different teams. I really enjoy analysing the big picture, then knowing which areas to dive into based on a particular client’s need at that point in time.
Q: Before we wrap up, as a sociologist and a researcher, would you share your thoughts on the future of technology on consumers? Do you see it as more of a benefit or a detriment?
A: That’s a tough one. I have no doubt that technology will continue to evolve, and that our society will continue to change as this happens. Likewise, the relevance of technology as part of the customer experience will continue to grow as technological capabilities and customer needs change. The digital experience is now part of so many experiences that you can’t think of it as separate. UX is integral to CX. Therefore, it’s critical that businesses understand the importance and relevance of UX as it pertains to customer acquisition, customer experience, and customer retention. Technology can remove many barriers, such as physical space requirements, geographic distances, and accessibility - both socio-economic and physical. Understanding how human interaction changes as technology develops will be key to a more seamless, frictionless evolution.
To discuss how Phase 5 can help you leverage technology to become more customer-centric, or to schedule a meeting with Rachel, contact us.